Microsoft helps students dig deep into Writing

Guest Post by: Lisa Cuthbert-Novak – Microsoft Expert Educator

This learning activity was a part of an investigation to explore how information communication technologies can be used to deepen students’ understanding of their writing process and develop the essential personal, learning and collaborative skills to become more effective writers. In particular, I explored how Microsoft Word editing features, PowerPoint multimodal capabilities and OneNote Notebook development tools can be used, not just as end of writing publishing options, but as highly focused teaching tools that support students to understand their writing process on a much deeper leveI.

I implemented a unit of Poetry inquiry where our year 4 students used the multimodal capabilities of PowerPoint to share their thoughts and personal responses to poetry. Students captured inspirational poetry, recorded poetry readings using video, and photographed illustrated responses to poetry, which they then shared with peers.

Then students used the extensive Review elements of Word, to examine and compare responses to the inspirational poem “The Magic Box”, by Kit Wright. Here students inserted Comments into a shared document to make annotations about specific author choices, such as similes, alliteration and contrasting ideas. We discussed the specific tools that effective writers use to create impact with their poetry.

During their personal writing process, students worked within the Author Cycle using features such as Track Changes, to record and make observations about their editing choices, and “Comments”, to conference and provide feedback to peers. Students worked independently within the Author Cycle, crafting their piece using the planning, drafting, conferencing, editing and publishing stages. I provided support by modelling effective feedback and inserted Metalanguage into my feedback (eg. Verbs, similes contrast…) to support the students in their ability to reflect upon writing choices.

The class collected examples of feedback and made choices as a group regarding what constitutes effective feedback. We created a 6-starred criterion for evaluating effective feedback. In particular, these year 4 students noted how specific, constructive and challenging feedback can often be more instructive and supportive than general positive feedback.

The students captured the stages of their writing journey and investigation into a OneNote Notebook, incorporating examples of inspirational poetry, capturing drafting, editing and published pieces to demonstrate their author cycle and reflecting upon their growth as a writer through annotated examples. In particular, they explored how “annotation” and “links to examples” can highlight learning stages and demonstrate their growth and capabilities as a writer.

Onenote Writer’s Portfolio from Lisa Cuthbert-Novak on Vimeo.

The next stage in this journey will be to take this Learning Community online, supporting students to make community and global connections.


Guest Post by

Lisa Novak – eLearning Coordinator – Balwyn North Primary School

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Lisa is an E-Learning Coach, training staff in using digital tools for deeper learning. A Year 4 generalist classroom teacher and Middle School Coordinator.

She is interested in:

  • 21CLD- using this tool to support the development of transformational learning projects in years 3-6.
  • New Pedagogies for Deep Learning – Her school has initiated deep learning projects that leverage digital tools for a cohort of students in year 4, that we will track through to year 6.
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Office Mix
  • Programming (Scratch)